(Lack of) Food for thought

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Not a wholly original blog today – stats & video are taken from “The Canary”

The stats below all have links and at the bottom is the link to a gentleman called Peter Stefanovic who is a campaigner and lawyer. He makes arguments that most decent people would support but no-one seems to be fighting for them.

Regardless how you are thinking of voting, please don’t fall for the apathy that some media outlets are already peddling. Ever time we get a chance to vote we should use that democratic right to it’s fullest. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard. If we all moan that nothing ever changes it’s because too many people aren’t voting.

We need to encourage everyone to get out for both the local and Westminster elections and have an impact. If you don’t believe me just look at the Brexit vote – well over 10 million people didn’t vote. That’s madness! Those people could have easily changed the vote either to Remain or to securely stamp Leave rather than the paper-thin difference we ended with.

This is a real turning point for the UK – and not just about the EU. We have had a Tory led government since 2010 and an SNP led Government since 2007 and both north and south of the border things are getting worse for our valued public services and servants. We are looking the other way at Europe and wondering what will happen there while behind us Education, Health, Mental Health, support for Carers and the Disabled are being eroded. Not enough money is being provided and where money is coming in it’s not to the people who so desperately need it. The poorest in the UK are miles behind those at the top – we are one of the richest countries in the world yet we are failing too many people.

Vote – but think carefully before you do and ensure your vote is for a positive change and a strike for hope in a world where too many are being left behind.

  • 400,000 children are now living in poverty, a figure which rose 100,000 in 2015/16. 67% of those are from working families.
  • Food bank usage has risen, with over half a million people reliant on just the Trussell Trust for food packages.
  • In two reports, the UN heavily criticised the Tories for “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. The government, meanwhile, has severely cut their benefits.
  • The past year has seen strikes by junior doctors, rail workers, teaching assistants, library workers, and other public sector staff. Their pay increases have mostly been capped at 1%.
  • National debt has increased by more than 50%.
  • Homelessness has risen by 54%.
  • Corporations have seen tax cuts [pdf] while the tax gap is around £120bn per year.
  • The NHS has seen a real terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient. While the amount of NHS money paid to ‘independent’ companies has more than doubled to £8bn a year.
  • The government has cut the number of people getting social care by 26%. And it has cut £50m from children’s mental health services.

JD

The Power of Apathy

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There’s only been one topic of conversation in the classroom since Tuesday’s US Election – “What do you think of Trump becoming President?” And rather than rant, rave and have a go at the dusty pumpkin dildo I have given them all this talk which I feel is worth sharing with everyone.

This is your fault. Not directly but you are part of the problem. If I ever ask you about your opinions on politics you laugh and say you don’t watch the news or read newspapers but you did see something funny on Facebook about Trump. Some of you can’t even tell me the name of the Prime Minister or Chancellor. And I’m aware that this has always been true to a point with teenagers – but the difference now is that apathy has grown up with the last couple of generations and we face Brexit and a Trump presidency as a result.

We have a sway of people who would rather vote for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing than for Ed Balls as a politician. From the comfort of our home we can be armchair pundits on events in the world and vote for pretty much anything by a tap, swipe or email address. We can sign petitions and share memes on things we feel strongly about from politics but actually go out and vote? No thanks – what’s the point?

The point is this apathy and “What difference will it make?” attitude is perfectly shown by this week’s election in America and the Brexit vote. Not only were millions of people sitting at home not bothering to vote but when you look at the overall figures of who could have voted and the outcomes the truth becomes painfully real.

In the EU vote:

UK Electorate eligible to vote – 46,501,241

Voted to Leave – 17,410,742

Voted to Remain – 16,141,241

Spoiled Ballots – 26,033

Did not vote – 12,949,258

In the US Election:

US Electorate eligible to vote – 231,000,000

Trump – 60,071,650

Clinton – 60,467,245

Others – 6,180,868

Did not vote – 104,280,237

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m no maths whizz but these stats show two things: Brexit was only voted for by 37.4% of the UK and only 26% of Americans voted for Trump. So they didn’t carry the day; it wasn’t a landslide victory and despite what politicians tell you it is not the will of the people – it’s the will of those who voted for whatever they are advocating.

I know this is common sense, and I’m also aware many will be shouting at me that this is how democracy works and not voting is still taking a stand. That’s where I call bullshit.

Not voting, not caring enough to put a cross in a box, pull a lever, press a button is a disgrace. Today we celebrated those who have given their lives so we can be free to enjoy democracy and our communal view is gradually becoming “So what?”

I’ll tell you what – look at your payslip: tax, National Insurance and pension payments. Look at your kids – schools, child benefit, tax credits. Look outside; roads, street lights, police. It’s not difficult to understand that everything we do is driven by politics and if we don’t care or can’t be bothered then when the police numbers drop and the local A&E shuts and the street lights are put out at night to save money and your kid’s school is threatened with closure don’t you dare suddenly decide to get involved, because you’re too late.

You should have been paying attention and shouting when the politicians at local, national and international level were standing with a manifesto on which they wanted your votes. When they take office don’t just sit there and accept that life has to be this way – challenge the status quo or a decision you think is unfair or unjust. We have become lazy and indifferent.

Why?

Because they don’t listen to us? No probably not to the dozen people who took to the streets or the hundred thousand who signed an online petition. Why would they. But if you fill their inbox and postbox with questions and requests for information and clarification then they are truly accountable. Just because they are elected doesn’t mean for one minute they are finished with us.

That’s the attitude we seem to have now. Not good enough.

If there is a vote coming up you need to ensure your MP, MSP or MEP knows your views – that’s their job to represent you, even if you didn’t vote for them.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to be apathetic about something as important as politics because if you don’t care, then why should the politicians? They know they don’t have to turn up to debates or speeches if you are never going to check/ask/need something from that decision.

Brexit and Trump happened because people felt they had something to vote for – a voice that echoed theirs. Yes, part of the problem with Brexit is it’s hard to stir up passion for the status quo but you will lose it if you don’t stand up and say something when it really matters. And yes Clinton wasn’t the most palatable candidate we’ve ever seen for the Democrats but with the choice they had surely it wasn’t beyond the wit of the more than one hundred million voters to make sure it wasn’t The Donald.

I look at the current situation in politics and wonder why our leader of the free world is a reality TV star with no experience. I see our Foreign Secretary in the UK as that idiot that was funny (for the wrong reasons) on Have I Got News For You. I see 1960s cartoon character Nigel Farage leading the charge for Brexit and befriending the day-glow fucktrumpet billionaire.

Is this what we have become? A world who will only vote for the same people we can vote for on TV, tweet from our smartphones or Facebook Friend? If it is then we need a new revolution where policy matters. Where people matter – not frivolous personalities and stupid soundbites. Where policy matters – not redundant rhetoric or quiz show appearances.

We need to stop this cycle of apathy because you just need to see how fucked up 2016 has been – and we caused that. You and Me. Sharing a picture on FB is not enough. Setting up or signing an online petition is not enough. We need to step away from the virtual world and start living in the real world again where there are real dangers and issues.

The rise of the KKK. The need for the hashtag BlackLivesMatter in 2016. The amount of Food Banks in the developed world. The wars in Syria and Yemen and Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugee crisis in Europe and Africa and the Middle East. The gap between Rich & Poor expanding like never before.

I know, I see the irony of me putting this on a blog. I’m as guilty as those I’m complaining about in many ways. But in others I’m not. I always vote. ALWAYS. For local, Scottish, UK, EU elections or referendums. They matter. They really matter and will have an impact on your life. I joined a political party for the first time this year. not because I agree with everything they say, but because i believe in the core values and want to help shape the ideas they produce. I want my kids to grow up in a country and on a planet that gives a fuck.

If you are still apathetic then I don’t know how else I can convince you. But when you see the images of Russia moving further into Ukraine; see more violence against those who have emigrated to our country; see the dismantling of the only healthcare many in the us have; the images of the melting ice caps and you shrug your shoulders – then you deserve what you get.

JD

Be careful what you wish for…

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So it’s done again until 2020…or 2017 probably after the EU referendum. As a liberal-minded unionist lefty it’s not a great result for me either way today: SNP up here wanting to separate the union and the Tories down there ready to screw everyone even more in the next five years. It’s the first election I’ve voted in that has left me with little to be pleased about.

SNP

The historic win has to be recognised and as long as we have the first past the post system. But there are a few things to remember here, the SNP are the opposition party in Scotland to Labour and finally they won – it’s been a long time coming. Also it’s not a vote for another independence referendum, although that will come, but it does shake up the system which is maybe not a bad thing. However Nicola Sturgeon has to be careful what she asks for – recently she’s moved from wanting “full fiscal autonomy” to “fiscal responsibility”. While it might seem like semantics the two are very different.

“Autonomy” means we are left to run our own money – raise it and spend it with no Barnett formula, whereas “Responsibility” gives Sturgeon a safety net. Why would she need it? Well with current oil prices and no grant from Westminster we’d be anything from eight to ten billion pounds short in our budget. Where the SNP have to be careful is if they ask for it, it’s in the interests of the Tories to give it to them just to see it fail and get rid of the SNP possibly for a generation. While some may like to see the SNP in real trouble, it would mean the poorest in Scotland would suffer most.

Labour

Where do you start? Well I’d start at the point where Ed Miliband got elected as leader of the party. No one outside the unions wanted him – the public was expecting his brother to get the job and he would have had a much better chance than Ed yesterday. The reason? The lurch to the left. A return to the tribalism that kept the party out of power for eighteen years through the eighties and nineties.

Labour under Blair – regardless what you think of him – were a party that a majority could get behind. While it had an eye on working for everyone, it could also work with business and the banks. As much as we hate the banks we have to accept that we live in a capitalist model and until we – as a country – change that centre left is the best position for the Labour party. Weak leadership, no presence on the world stage, ideas with no substance and a man who let’s be honest we’re pretty glad will be gone. There’s no space for “pity politics” when they are in charge of our money and lives.

What next? Well for me Andy Burnham has always come across really well. Honest as Ed was but with more substance – and he’s not part of the political elite so he’d do well with the “working family” Labour claims to stand for.

Lib Dems

I have a soft spot for the Lib Dems, despite allowing tuition fees and the bedroom tax, they will be remembered for making the last five years almost bearable. If you don’t believe me write yourself a note saying “Remember the Lib Dems?”, stick it on your fridge and in about a year’s time you will be wishing someone was in the cabinet holding the Tories back from more cuts to the poorest in society, tax cuts for the richest and biggest businesses, and a lack of moral backbone of any kind.

Nick Clegg was not a monster but happened to fall foul of the “Black Widow” coalition – they were devoured by their mates after they screwed them. Should he have teamed up with the Tories? Well I don’t see how they could refuse in all honesty – a chance to implement their ideas and policies was too good a chance to miss. And they did deliver on raising the tax threshold by £5000 meaning most part-time workers or those on minimum wage didn’t pay any tax. I hope they bounce back stronger for the experience.

UKIP

Can fuck off

Tories 

It’s going to hurt. No two ways about it. For the next five years the belt-tightening will leave most of us with a permanent ingrained mark round our middles. Twelve billion pounds of cuts and a national debt that increased by half a trillion means no one will escape. And if track records are anything to go by we know that the worst off will face the biggest struggle. Foodbanks increased by a factor of more than ten in the last five years and around 900,000 people used them last year. Further cuts to benefits regardless of need, the removal of the Disability living allowance and reduced Child Benefit won’t bother the 1% super rich – but will impact on you and I.

Then there’s the biggest danger – Europe. This is the key to where we will be by 2020. Here are the two options:

1. Cameron negotiates a new deal and wins a referendum, decides to retire as Prime Minister and Boris steps up to the plate without the electorate getting a say.

or

2. Cameron negotiates a deal, but loses the referendum. This then will spark a second referendum in Scotland for Independence as we are Europhiles north of the border. With the prospect of fish, farming and oil being impacted it’s easy to see the Yes side winning.

And my fear is the latter is more likely.

Over the next five years I honestly think we could see a massive constitutional nightmare all because Cameron lurched right to call UKIP’s bluff. Redwood, Mitchell and other Eurosceptic Tories have already been on TV making warning noises.

While I will always respect the democratic process – and the shoddy first past the post system that left the Greens, UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems ridiculously under represented according to share of vote – I do think that with polar opposites either side of the border, we could be looking at Cameron being the last PM of the UK, and being the man who broke it.

JD

General Election – JD’s Guide

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Here is a simple guide to the upcoming election to help you if you are either a simpleton or easily manipulated.

The Tories

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Also known as the Conservatives, they are a group of upper middle class white men, who although straight, did become fags at school or something. They are known for guffawing and killing small furry animals and painting their faces with the blood. If you make a lot of money and want to keep it they will help you. If you don’t make a lot of money and want even less they can help you too.

Like to set challenges for poor people and the disabled are constantly being challenged to live on less and to stop being disabled. They will happily sign a note to say you can work even if you are dying. It’s because of them we have lots of food banks which is great – the more the better. Think of all the free food; thank you the Tories.

Reasons to vote for them: To make Downton Abbey a reality show rather than a drama

Reason to vote against: If you’re a bit common.

The Labours

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Once they were people with accents no one could understand, but now they speak right proper and everything. They claim they are supported by Unions, but I don’t believe in them because it’s just a horse with an ice cream cone on its head. They are a bit like Robin Hood in that they live in trees and like to be funny by calling big people little and little people big – sense of humour alert!

They like to spend a lot of money and pretend it’s Monopoly money so there’s no real consequences until they leave the job. They are big fans of cash for gold schemes and will happily sell you stuff they got down the pub too. Their current leader is actually Gilbert the Alien from Get Fresh painted cream.

Reason to vote for them: It’d be really funny to make Gilbert in charge

Reason not to vote for them: Because Gilbert would be in charge.

The Liberal Democratics

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Formed at Woodstock in 1969 these people love trees and banjo playing. They wash once a month on the third Tuesday to be fresh for the four equinoxes. Once a party we all loved they are now around level with the bad guy in Die Hard in that we don’t like him because he’s a baddie, but we still sneakily like him because he’s Alan Rickman.

They work with Tories to stop them being total bastards – forbidding them to do things like staring at your Gran and stealing trolleys from ASDA. Their Leader knows lots of languages and can say sorry in them all – which has been very important. They’re a bit like your ex: they promises but you know their sleeping with Kev.

Reason to vote for them: They like Pringles

Reason to not vote for them: Only original flavour.

The UKIPpers

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A bunch of cheery, happy-go-lucky racists – just like your Granda they hate everyone who isn’t from their street. David Icke says they look like reptiles but then he’s mental. They like beer and if you like beer they like you as long as it’s British Beer or they might glass you or something.

They get confused by hating foreign people while hiring, marrying and working with them. I think someone needs to do some flashcard work with them. They tend to do well with people who aren’t very clever and who drag their knuckles when they walk. They try to scare us by saying that all foreign people have the AIDS and just want to use the NHS as some kind of Bond Villain hideout.

Reason to vote for them: You’re a racist

Reason not to vote for them: You like takeaway food

The Scottish Nationalistics

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Led by 1980s Crackajack star Wee Jimmy Krankie these are the Scottish equivalent of UKIPpers (but are only racist against they border). Once they asked people a question and then they put their fingers in their ears and shouted “nanananana I can’t hear you” so they never really heard the answer.

They want to turn Scottishland into Royston Vasey. Not so much a local shop for local people, but a bit weird and scary and cannibalistic. Rumours are that only people with Fish based names can be in charge and they have Pike from Dad’s army ready to take over if there’s and accident to the Krankie.

Reason to vote for them: You thought Braveheart was historically accurate

Reason to not vote for them: You don’t live in Scotland.

Everyone Else

There are other flavours of idiots available for you to vote for in the Election including all the ones with letter if you live in Nrn Ireln; the party that needs vowels from Wales; the Green Party who like trees and probably don’t shave intimate areas; and many others.

Who you vote for is your decision, you much make a choice between a selection of people you would never have over for dinner or even let in your house. In fact if your son or daughter brought any of them home you would immediately move so it could never happen again. But don’t worry – it’s not as important as that you’re only picking the people run our country.

JD

 

NB This is a joke. If you didn’t work that out you are not allowed to vote. Twat.

Mad, Bad and now Dangerous

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King of Fuckwittery strikes again as the UKIP leader opens his mouth and allows his arsepiece to shout through him toward the microphones. We’ve enjoyed a large helping of ubertwattery of late from the modern day Loony Party with homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny and downright ignorance as the idiotic cherry on the shitcake – but today’s “policy” announcement shows what a rabid cockwomble this man actually is.

From Today’s Daily Telegr*ph: “Mr Farage said the current ban on the guns, which were made illegal following the school shooting at Dunblane in 1996, was “ludicrous.” Speaking on LBC Radio Mr Farage said that it was Ukip policy to create a “proper licensing policy” and that people who kept hand guns responsibility locked up and had were willing to get an official license should “absolutely” be allowed them.”

Where do you start with an idea that lack any understanding of the country he represents as an MEP? He calls the law that Labour brought in on Handguns after the Cullen Inquiry investigated the massacre of 16 young children and their teacher in Dunblane as “Knee-jerk”. He wants people to be able to defend themselves and have a licence system to allow people in the UK to own Handguns to protect themselves. At what point does it seem like a good idea to bring guns into our lives in this country? I am genuinely shocked at the complete lack of self-awareness this c*nt has for what he says.

Even if you consider the issues that have surrounded the reliability of the crime statistics that were announced the other day crime is going down and overall has been for many years, however gun crime is still a problem in the larger inner cities where there has been a rise in fatal shootings. Do we really want to add to this? The move would mean we would have to arm our police on the streets; it would increase the risk of school shootings; of gangs using even more weapons that they currently do; of legal weapons being used by those who aren’t licensed to carry or use them. There are no positives to this idea at all. None.

Who is Farage actually trying to attract to his party here – he is in the UK not the Tea Party supporting Deep South of the US. The lessons learned from across the pond are stark, shocking and could not be used as a template for anything but the disintegration of society as we know it. The only people who would venture to the ballot box because of this policy are people who really don’t deserve a vote in the first place. You would have to be seriously unhinged to think that having a gun in your house – under lock and key or not – makes you or your family safer.

The sooner this horrible skidmark on the y-fronts of politics is washed away the better. He is not the eccentric, old fashioned Englishman as he portrays himself as – if he genuinely believes this, would make the UK a better country, he is a danger to the future of it. And you thought Boris was bad…

JD

ADHD: “mostly psychobabble to keep lefties in jobs”.

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UKIP are in trouble again because they can’t keep their big mouths shut. This time they are saying that kids with such conditions as dyslexia and ADHD are largely fine and nothing is wrong with them; that it’s an excuse for bad behaviour and bad parenting.

Kathleen Garner, secretary of Ukip’s Croydon branch, suggested on the message boards that young children suffering from ADHD were merely “naughty”, and blamed any signs of ADHD or dyslexia on parents not feeding them properly or poor teaching. She wrote: “We had the odd ‘naughty’ child in class, but that was usually just the one and it was clear their parents neglected them. The same goes for dyslexia. Despite having a son diagnosed with the condition, I consider it to be solely the result of poor teaching in primary school.” – Huffington Post Website.

There are a couple interesting things here – one that she has a son with Dyslexia and two that they are so stupid to be publicly throwing these sorts of opinions about (the full article can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/01/17/ukip-adhd-psychobabble-message-boards_n_4609441.html?utm_hp_ref=uk )

But sadly there is something about all these queries about the huge rise in recognised conditions it raises a few options – is it all rubbish and the majority are fine and just not bright or well behaved, or there is a serious problem with the current generation of kids and their learning ability. So which is it, is it as simplistic as that or is there a third option? When I was teaching in schools there were so many pupils with additional needs that their need for separate rooms was overwhelming the building. From those with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, autism and Asperger’s syndrome through to those who needed extra time for a variety of other reasons the numbers are growing each year – something is wrong but because it is a delicate area people are scared to ask the challenging and difficult questions.

I’m not for a minute dismissing or denying the existence of any of these conditions, there is more than enough evidence to show that the conditions are real and cause issues for those with the learning difficulties, their parents and the teachers who look after them, but it shouldn’t be a finger-pointing exercise that the UKIP members have started blaming people for the conditions. This is the way these people were built and we need to support them as best we can in the “inclusive” system we run in Scotland. The question still remains though why are the numbers of those being diagnosed so high – are we getting better at picking up on the issues and pinpointing the additional needs, are we making excuses for those who just aren’t clever enough in fear of the repercussions or is there a genuine problem that needs to be addressed in our children?

Are we getting better at picking up the conditions? Yes we are. There is more understanding and awareness about all the learning difficulties in both classroom teachers and in the specialists who have great resources and knowledge to help those students. We do need to be careful though that just because someone is on a “spectrum” doesn’t mean they need any additional help. Technically we are all on the spectrum it’s a matter of where not if. Also the tag dyslexic or autistic doesn’t actually help the situation – like any illness or condition it is the way it manifests itself in that person which is important. Understanding how we can help is important and I would argue that the current written test format doesn’t suit the growing percentage of students who struggle with these conditions. School teaching methods and testing are limited by the SQA in Scotland as to how best measure success – yes there is oral feedback instead of written but we need to do better than these archaic models. Interactive websites, e-learning and audio-visual options must be moved forward in the thinking and drag things into the present.

Secondly are we making excuses? Again I’d argue yes we are. There is a fear in teaching and the institutions of education that if we deny anyone then there will be negative publicity and potential repercussions so if it means that a whole section of the school get extra time or a separate room or breaks that’s okay isn’t it? Well not really because business and the real world doesn’t work like that. There’s a difficult balance between supporting pupils and mollycoddling them and it’s a tough call. I understand the decision to allow many who probably have little wrong with them to get the additional support to ensure the teachers and schools have an easier life. The accusation that it’s an excuse for the teacher for not achieving is a non-starter as these kids will appear on the stats in the same way as every other child in the country and no special dispensation is made at that point so don’t be fooled by that lie.

Finally is there a problem with this generation of pupils and children that numbers of cases are rising year on year? Possibly. There’s no hard and fast case but the stats can’t just be explained away by the first two options. Yes we understand the conditions better and yes we probably allow more into the fold than we should but there must be an increasing number of people with conditions full stop. Diet? Environmental? Medical? I’m not qualified to say, but if it’s not suspicious then it’s alarming that so many are struggling with reading, writing and arithmetic.

Or there is that other option of course that we didn’t consider. Perhaps constantly changing the focus within education, using it as a political football and here in Scotland to rewrite the whole thing in a foreign language to reality perhaps it’s that we’re just not teaching the basics anymore and the kids aren’t struggling with “additional needs” – it’s “basic needs” where the system lets them down. Unfortunately this is not a simple yes/no, black/white situation but ignoring it won’t solve the problem either. We need to address the issues head on by reconsidering the “inclusion” lie we’ve had to live with and the closing of fantastic units across the country, that had the time and resources to help those in serious need of support, to get it full-time. We need to ensure the basics are taught in primary as there are times where the issue is that kids just haven’t been taught literacy and numeracy. But most of all stop pointing fingers and blaming each other because that allows those in a position to do something about the problem to hide from their responsibilities. Don’t challenge the teachers, challenge the Local Authorities and the Politicians because they can do something tangible to make our kids education work better in the first place.

JD